More Gun Blegging: Pistol Caliber ARs

I’ve never been into pistol caliber carbines all that much. I’d be interested in submachine guns if they were legal, but semi-auto pistol carbines have just never tickled my fancy. However, my club has steel targets set closer than 100 yards that are limited to pistol calibers, and our indoor range is limited to pistol calibers. We’re also about to get more pistol-caliber-only steel. So I’m thinking a pistol caliber AR-like carbine is something I could use.

But I’m not sure what to get. I’m not opposed to registering it as an SBR, and as long as I’m doing that I might as well register a can for it. To me a 16″ barrel on a pistol caliber gun is a bit pointless. But maybe I can get a pinned or integral suppressor that takes it out to 16″ and only need one tax stamp? To me if you’re going the suppressed route, the .45 ACP is a better option, but I believe that takes a more AR-10 sized lower. One thing for sure is I’d want it to take Glock magazines.

Anyone out there have any experience in this area?

What to Do with the 6.8?

Years ago, against my better judgement, I had an opportunity to buy a barely used 6.8 SPC AR-15 upper for a pretty good price, so I took it. My first clue there was trouble should have been was how badly the case head was marred after extraction. I always made my reloads lighter than factory, but reality is I could only ever push about 2100ft/sec at the muzzle without creating notable symptoms of overpressure. Factory ammo all exhibited overpressure signs.

Turns out that manufacturer’s supplier of that upper over-chromed their barrels, and so they all had pretty significant chamber pressure issues. Not knowing how safe it really was to shoot, and not liking the anecdotal evidence that suggested I could only avoid overpressure symptoms at positively anemic velocities, it’s sat in my safe for years unfired.

I’ve been debating whether it makes sense to re-barrel that upper in 6.8, or just repurpose the upper for a standard 5.56x45mm AR, sell the 6.8 brass, bullets, etc, and move on. The only reason I’d even re-barrel in 6.8 is because of just a little inner gun hipster. But I don’t really know how much of a future 6.8 has, and I can’t abide by modern guns I don’t ever shoot taking up safe space.

Sport Pistol Powder

Since I haven’t been spending as much time writing about shooting, I’ve been actually shooting more. A lot more, which has kept my reloading press busy. Up until now I’ve used Unique for most of my pistol loads. Recently I got a hold of some Alliant Sport Pistol powder, which was introduced last year. It’s very fine grained, measures very well, and doesn’t have as much of a tendency to jump out of the case and end up all over the press as the plate snaps into index. What does get on the press is too fine grained to really gum up the works, which means I don’t have to stop as often to clean up the mess.

The only downside is it’s harder to detect a double charge in larger calibers visually, and while I’ve had overcharges with Unique that were scary, it’s slow burning enough that I didn’t have a kaboom when I’ve done it. I have a feeling Sport Pistol overcharging will have more of a tendency to blow up the pistol.

The loads feel a little more crisp on recoil than my Unique loads. They also give loading info specifically for polymer coated bullets, and it’s advertised to be formulated to work with poly coated bullets. I don’t know how much that’s true, or how much is just marketing BS. Supposedly poly coated bullets are safe to shoot through pistols with polygonal rifling, like Glocks. I hope that’s true, because I’m shooting ACME “lipstick” bullets through mine. The poly bullets are dirt cheap and work well on steel targets. I’ve noticed they make a nice cloud of dust when they hit the steel, so I’d be careful with the rounds indoors. So far they seem to be working great for such cheap bullets.

The Original Plastic Gun Threat

Dave Kopel has a great article over at the Volokh Conspiracy on the original plastic gun panic that happened in the 1980s.

“Qaddafi Buying Austrian Plastic Pistol.” That was the headline from columnists Jack Anderson and Dale Van Atta in Washington Post on January 15, 1986. According to the article, “The Libyans are said to be trying covert methods to obtain these weapons.”

Today, Glocks are ubiquitous, one of the most common pistols, with many models. But in January 1986, they were little known in America, where only a few thousnd had been sold.

Swiftly, the gun control lobbies began warning Americans about the “plastic pistol.” They dubbed them “terrorist specials” or the “Hijackers Special.” Supposedly, this plastic gun was designed to sneak through metal detectors.

I remember that panic about Qaddafi trying to get a hold of Glocks. It’s interesting that quick law enforcement adoption is likely what saved a lot of pistols.

The comment section over there is a den of cliched wookie suitery:

“Thanks for admitting the NRA compromised.”

Of course it did, because the alternative to an “undetectable firearms” law that actually banned no guns was a much broader law that would have banned nearly all small, concealable firearms before the concealed carry revolution even got off the ground. If you say something like this while adjusting your trusty LCP you carry in your pocket, you’re an idiot.

Remember, “Something must be done!” is the impetus for most of this bullshit. NRA gave them “something” that didn’t ban a single gun, and it put the issue to bed long enough for technological change to make Metzenbaum’s position politically untenable.

“Remember Reagan signed the only outright Federal gun ban.”

Yes, as part of a much broader bill that was intended to prevent the gun culture from being extinguished. No one I’ve ever spoken with who was involved in the FOPA fight thinks that scuttling the whole thing over the Hughes Amendment would have been a wise idea.

So far we’re weathering the 3D gun scare a lot better than we weathered the original plastic gun hysteria. I was only 10 in 1986, but I remember the hype in the news. At the time, I wasn’t aware the whole issue was essentially bullshit: I did not come from a gun owning family. The difference is communication is much better these days, and it’s easier to counter disinformation campaigns. Social media has changed a lot, both for good and ill.

Slate: 80% Lowers a Bigger Threat

This Slate article actually shows a reasonable degree of understanding on the home build issue. They correctly point out that home manufacturing is legal in most of the United States, provided they are intended for personal use by the person who makes it. Manufacturing for sale requires an FFL.

If lawmakers are concerned about threats having to do with 3D-printed weaponry, they might consider banning 3D-printed bump stocks, too, which are attachments that can be added to semi-automatic rifles to make them fire faster. Those might work better than a fully 3D-printed gun. But 80 percent lower kits remain a much bigger threat—and should be a higher priority for lawmakers.

If they reclassify bump stocks as machine guns, it will be illegal to 3D print one, just as it’s currently illegal to 3D print a machine gun. However this is feel good nonsense. Of course someone unconcerned with following the law can print a machine gun receiver, or machine a machine gun receiver from an 80% billet, or go to Home Depot and buy all the parts you need for a home made submachine gun. A lot of these fools just don’t get this: you can make this shit illegal, but it’s not going to stop someone who’s intent on committing murder, robbery, or some kind of terrorist act. It’s not going to stop people from manufacturing them for the black market. There couldn’t be a more plain case for, “This is only going to deter hobbyists who are no threat to anyone.”

But as I’ve said, that’s the idea. Stopping criminals is not the purpose of this. That’s just a bullshit pretext. The idea that anyone could just make a gun? Scare bleu! The peasants, in their basement? They might even have fun doing it! They might make a mockery of us, and wouldn’t that be the worst thing ever.

And what about the 80% issue?

Understand the fundamental issue: Generally, our law is structured around the idea that gun parts can break, and owners ought to be able to order replacement parts without having go through a background check and fill out paperwork just to get a replacement spring, firing pin, bolt, etc. This is not a loophole in the Gun Control Act. It was intentionally set up this way.

So we pick one part that is the critical piece, and call it “the gun.” Most of the time, that’s the receiver, which some designs divide into upper and lower receivers, either of which can be “the gun,” depending. There’s a certain stage of manufacturing where ATF considers a piece of metal machined enough to qualify as a firearm even if it’s not fully finished. ATF is generally clear on what those machining steps are.

So how do you “fix” this “loophole?” Say you make ATF remove a few machining steps to qualify as unfinished, and now “80% lowers” are illegal, and we now have the “70% lower.” Think hobbyists won’t get around that? How far do you go? Where does it end? At what point do you start demanding billets of aluminum get regulated? Don’t be ridiculous.

What drives me nuts about the political climate today is what I’ve seen dubbed “aggressive ignorance,” driven largely by social media. Put enough people in an echo chamber, where dissenting opinion is driven out, and the answers become simple. We live in an easy world to the aggressively ignorant. They have charlatans parading easy answers at them all day, and who are you to say it wouldn’t work? What do you know about the topic? You’re part of the evil gun lobby! If it weren’t for people like you, we could solve these problems.

Everyone wants easy answers, and god damn anyone who tries to say there aren’t any. It’s madness.

Can’t Stop the Signal, Part II

Various groups are attempting to shut down sites that share CAD drawings. Also, a look at the court’s lawless TRO.

Yesterday, Alyssa Milano’s NoRA (wow, that’s just so clever) group managed to get shut down briefly, but they relocated and have come back online.

I have to admit, it checks all the boxes for being the work of Ladd Everitt, formerly of CSGV. Maybe it’s one of his protégés, because last I checked Ladd was still wasting his time with George Takei. But #DownloadableDeath is the kind of over the top hysterics that Ladd could be rightly proud of.

If you’re looking for an alternate source for all your 3D CAD needs, you need to look no further than here. Also:

Tam’s reaction to that is pretty much spot on. I’m really hoping the civil rights lawsuits here are going to be epic.

If you want to view the actual TRO issued against Defense Distributed, you can find it here. I would actually argue that Pennsylvania has no standing to join this suit, since making a firearm at home is not illegal under Pennsylvania law. There is no Pennsylvania law our Governor and Attorney General can articulate that Defense Distributed publishing CAD drawings would undermine. Pennsylvania’s entry into this suit is grandstanding, and that’s about it.

If you don’t want to read the whole TRO, I can sum it up for you.

“Because I, judge, sez, you have a strong likelihood of succeeding on the merits, and this downloadable plastic gun mumbo jumbo sounds scary, a Temporary Restraining Order you can haz!”

But seriously, I will try to explain the issue as best I can, and as best as I understand it. The Plaintiffs here, the various state AGs, contend that the Trump Administration has to go through the rule making process prescribed by the Administrative Procedures Act if they want to change the USML (United State Munitions List). The Administration has agreed to pursue that rule change. But in the mean time, Defense Distributed was granted a license to share their CAD drawings. It’s hard for me to see how the various state AGs have a strong likelihood of succeeding on the merits. The AECA allows the President to grant waivers. Defense Distributed has argued that the decision to grant a license is not even judicable, and cites ample precedent that shows in similar context, the courts, even the 9th Circuit, have agreed it is not.

This is not even considering the First Amendment claims here.

Bloomberg is Looking for Fault Lines

I suspect that the true goal of all the bump stock and 3D printing hysteria is to limit home gun smithing and make working on your own firearms a legally risky maneuver. Well, I should say, more legally risky than it already is. You can also reach AR-15s this way without going for a full on ban because the fact that it’s highly customizable. Eliminate the ability to customize without going to a licensed pro and you might not have your ban, but you’ll push the more dedicated owners out of the hobby. Once you start cutting numbers, then the ban is more politically feasible. Where the gun control movement has managed to find success over the years is by finding an exploiting fault lines among gun owners.

At the risk of sounding conspiratorial, I don’t think the bump stock bans that also happened to greatly increase the legal hazard of doing ordinary customizations on a semi-automatic firearm were an accident. If they just wanted a bump stock ban, a bit of a wording change to make the language more precise, and they’d have won without much fight. But they keep pushing the same language in state after state.

Then this 3D printing bullshit blows up into a huge thing. If it were the Brady Campaign, I might just see it as something they view as good fundraising, and dismiss any strategic thought being behind it. But Bloomberg didn’t end up a billionaire by being a fool or an idiot, and Everytown doesn’t really have to worry about fundraising as long as Bloomberg is writing checks. So I’m more inclined to think there’s a plan.

If I’m right, it’s a smart one, and unfortunately has a chance of working. Trying to ban sharing CAD files on the Internet is a fool’s errand, but it’s framing the debate in the public in terms that aren’t immediately favorable to us. My worry is Cody Wilson is picking a huge fight on ground I’m not sure is defensible. Most people, including most gun owners, don’t know shit about what dedicated hobbyists are doing with their guns. They know even less about 3D printing or CNC machining. Ground where ignorance rules is fertile ground for people willing to win by waging disinformation campaigns.

While I argue there are topics in the gun issue that are better off flying under the radar, anything that does that is ripe for exploiting by people looking to scaremonger. The antidote to that is familiarity. Defending home gun smithing will actually be easier when every kid has a 3D printer and CNC machining can be done by anyone without having to know much about machining. The more people tinker, even if they aren’t tinkering with guns, the safer every tinkerer is as long as they don’t throw each other the bus. But are we there yet? That’s what I’m not sure about. The question in my mind is whether Cody Wilson is out too far ahead and inviting a counterattack we can’t defend against, or I’m just too cautious. I’m open to either being true, or both.

Get Your 3D Plans

Published over at Code is Free Speech. Also, seen on the Internets:

In a world where there are 3-D printers and thumbdrives (not to mention peer-to-peer file sharing over networks), this fight is already over. About all we can do is pass laws that are 21st-century versions of the 19th-century British law that required a man with a red flag had to precede the dangerous menace of horseless carriages to protect the public.

Yep. That’s exactly what this is.